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PASSINGS: Thomas Cassidy, Valerie Eliot

Thomas Cassidy, longtime classical music radio announcer, dies at 95; Valerie Eliot, poet T.S. Eliot's widow who nurtured his legacy, dies at 86

November 13, 2012

Thomas Cassidy

Longtime classical music radio announcer in L.A.

Thomas Cassidy, 95, an announcer who was the longtime host of classical music programs on the now-defunct KFAC radio station, died Nov. 5 at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, his daughter Peggy Friedman said. The cause was not given.

From December 1943 until January 1987, Cassidy was the host of KFAC's "Evening Concert" series. He also hosted the station's "Musical Masterpieces" and "Luncheon at the Music Center" shows for many years.

In the 1950s and '60s he was the intermission announcer at the Hollywood Bowl.

Cassidy was born Nov. 4, 1917, in Valparaiso, Ind., and, aspiring to become an opera singer, studied at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. He met his future wife, Dorothy, there and the couple married in 1942.

Encouraged by his wife, Cassidy began auditioning for radio networks to help pay the bills and landed a job with NBC. The network sent him to Boise, Idaho, to learn the trade, then several months later he returned to Los Angeles. He was hired by KFAC, the first commercial classical radio station in Los Angeles.

He served as the host and programmer for the "Evening Concert," which was broadcast Monday through Saturday nights and was sponsored by Southern California Gas Co. He retired soon after the station was sold in late 1986.

In a 1957 profile of Cassidy in The Times, he contrasted his assignments for KFAC with his announcing duties at the Hollywood Bowl. "In stage work you get an immediate response, but in radio you are remote from your audience," he said. "You put your heart and soul into it and maybe a week later you get one letter."

Valerie Eliot

Poet T.S. Eliot's widow nurtured his legacy

Valerie Eliot, 86, the widow of T.S. Eliot and a zealous guardian of the poet's literary legacy for almost half a century, died Friday at her London home, the Eliot estate said in a statement. The cause was not disclosed.

Born Valerie Fletcher in Leeds, northern England, on Aug. 17, 1926, Eliot was the second wife of the U.S.-born Nobel literature laureate. She met him at London publisher Faber & Faber, where he was a director and she a star-struck secretary who had been a fan of his work since her teenage years.

"I felt I knew him as a person" from his poems, she told the Independent newspaper in 1994, "and evidently I did."

The poet's first marriage, to the mercurial Vivienne Haigh-Wood, had been unhappy; she died in a mental institution in 1947.

He and Valerie wed in 1957, and friends described the marriage as a happy one despite the almost 40-year gap in their ages.

After T.S. Eliot's death in 1965, Valerie became his executor, editing his poems and letters for publication and steadfastly refusing to cooperate with would-be biographers, in keeping with the poet's last wishes.

She did, however, welcome the unlikely idea of a stage musical based on a volume of Eliot's whimsical verses, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." It became the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Cats," a global hit that brought in huge sums for the Eliot estate.

Valerie Eliot used some of the windfall to set up a literary charity, Old Possum's Practical Trust. She also funded the T.S. Eliot Prize, an annual award for poetry.

She oversaw publication of a much-praised facsimile edition of T.S. Eliot's 1922 modernist masterpiece "The Waste Land" and edited multiple volumes of letters that gave scholars new insights into the intensely private poet.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

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